Our week-long Alaskan cruise aboard Holland America’s “M.S. Oosterdam” was a blast! We laughed at comedians, saw magic shows, learned to dance swing, slept late, and ate ice cream non-stop. And then we ate some more! Our favorite spot was sitting up in “The Crows Nest” observation area at the top of the ship that provides 270-degree viewing of the surrounding ocean, where we watched sunsets and a great number of whales.
Along the way, we stopped at a few of Alaska’s picturesque towns:
After leaving Glacier Bay, we cruised overnight and woke up in Juneau, Alaska’s Capital. The town itself would be a delight for anyone seeking jewelry, Native American art, or anything made of fur. Since none of those are really our thing, we hopped on a shuttle that took us to Medenhall Glacier. The weather was cold and rainy, preventing us from hiking closer to the glacier, but the showers were nice enough to break long enough to take a few pictures. The rich blue colors in this glacier, due to less air in the ice, were quite beautiful. The adjacent lake, land the glacier used to occupy, has cute islands scattered about. There were even a few brave souls out in a small boat, which served as a great comparison to show you the massive size of this glacier. We walked a nearby path that crossed several salmon streams with signs promising bear attacks, but sadly none were forthcoming.
Our next stop was Sitka, situated on an island in southeastern Alaska. We were immediately impressed by the location as the waters surrounding Sitka are peppered with small islands, some with cute homes that we would have happily occupied. The town itself was less-touristy than Juneau, which we appreciated. We visited a small lake and then walked to Sitka National Historic Park, which proved to be the highlight of the day. The park was not only filled with colorful totem poles, but had an estuary which offered us a fun, up-close experience with the circle of life. Hundreds, if not thousands, of salmon were making their way up the river in varying stages of decomposition, some having already lost the fight. The number of salmon was so great, it was hard to see the floor of the river in places. There were also hundreds of seagulls happily splashing, squawking, and feasting on dead – or dying – salmon. Lisa was inspired to be adventurous and roll-up her jeans to try and catch a salmon with her bare hands. Sadly, the slippery little buggers escaped, but she had fun trying.
We woke up the next morning in Ketchikan, which proclaims to be “Alaska’s first city”, since it is generally the first town people reach when boating up from the South. The ship was set to sail at 1pm, so we hurried ashore to visit this small fishing town. We had fun exploring its maze of wooden boardwalks and stairways that zigzag through the town. Everywhere we looked: in the bay, streams, and rivers, there were thousands of salmon swimming and jumping. It was quite a sight to see. Wm was tempted on more than one occasion to jump in and eat one, or “save” one of the many, which were stuck in the fish-ladder at the hatchery. The town also features the Creek Street Historic District which served as Alaska’s most notorious red-light district during the first half of the 20th century. (The stilted houses in this area have since been converted to shops and businesses.) We purchased some fudge and made it back to the ship just as it started to rain.